Riverview School Board primary has 6 candidates seeking both party nominations for 4 seats | #students | #parents


Editor’s note: The Advance Leader is only spotlighting contested races in the primary election.

Oakmont and Verona residents might see all the same Riverview School Board candidates vying for nominations in the primary on the November ballot, as six people have cross-filed, according to the Allegheny County Office of Elections unofficial candidate list.

Those seeking both the Democratic and Republican nominations May 18 are incumbents Brian Hawk, Jeanine Hurt-Robinson and Arlene Loeffler and challengers Stefani Garibay, Laura Jacko and Wendy Wilton.

Here are the candidates and their responses to election questions posed by the Tribune-Review:

Stefani Garibay

• Why did you decide to run for election?

“I decided to run for Riverview School Board to be the ear and advocate I wish I had when I have approached the board over the years. As a young Mexican-American mom, at times I have felt unheard, pushed off to the side and otherwise disregarded when advocating for my son who has Down syndrome. I don’t want anyone to feel the way I’ve felt. Our residents, parents and students should be able to approach the board without hesitation and with hope that they will be heard and understood.”

• What do you feel is the biggest issue that needs to be addressed?

“How our special education is operated. We have spent far too many years without an adequate and dedicated lead in our special education and haven’t put forth the effort to provide quality education for our learning support students. We do what’s required, but we don’t do it from the heart.

“As well as our arts and music which took a hit over the years, and I’d like to make sure we get back to where we once were. Losing Mr. (Ian) Hughes was a huge loss to this district, and we need to address our music dept moving forward. Aside from that, I believe the entire district needs help, fresh eyes and new minds to move forward.”

• What should voters know about you?

“I am a 14-year resident of the Oakmont/Verona communities, avid volunteer and mother of three. I intend to hear everyone, ask questions and be a voice for all. I’m here to fight the good fight, not just for our staff and students, but also our taxpayers.”

Brian Hawk

• Why did you decide to run for election?

“I am running because I feel that it is important to have parents of current students on the school board.”

• What do you feel is the biggest issue that needs to be addressed?

“Funding of public school education. With the time I have spent on the school board finance committee I have been shocked at the public school funding model. There are so few budgetary line items that a board can control due to the state mandates with less than 30% of the funding coming from the state or federal government. I will continue to fight for a fair and more balanced funding model.”

• What should voters know about you?

“I am currently filling a vacated seat since January 2020. I am a parent of a 10th grader, seventh grader and a preschooler who will soon attend school in the district. I am also a construction professional who can add understanding and oversight into the district’s renovation and construction projects.”

Jeanine Hurt-Robinson

• Why did you decide to run for election?

“I am running to retain my seat on the school board.”

• What do you feel is the biggest issue that needs to be addressed?

“The biggest issue that needs to be addressed is making the decisions today that ensure the sustainability of the district for the future.”

• What should voters know about you?

“My care and focus for the children of the district is genuine. I have enjoyed being an active volunteer in our communities for the past decade. Through work and volunteering, I have established many relationships that give me a greater understanding of all the working parts of the district. It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve both the Oakmont and Verona communities. I appreciate your support and look forward to representing everyone in the Riverview School District in the future.”

Laura Jacko

• Why did you decide to run for election?

“I believe strongly in serving my community and have a deep belief in a robust public education system. My little boy will be attending school next year, and I want to do what I can using the skills that I have to ensure that he and his peers have access to a quality public education.”

• What do you feel is the biggest issue that needs to be addressed?

“The two greatest areas I’d like to help improve are an emphasis on STEAM educational opportunities, which focus on the integration of the arts in science and math, and creating additional opportunities for outdoor learning and recreation.”

• What should voters know about you?

“I am heavily involved in my community and hold positions on Verona’s parks and recreation board and as the president of Verona’s Shade Tree Commission. I hold two degrees, English and French, with honors from Westminster College. Additionally, I serve on the board of Pittsburgh’s French language school for children, Ecole du Samedi, and I volunteer with the Sierra Club. I believe deeply in the value of an excellent public educational system and live these values in my personal academic history and through my community commitments.”

Arlene Loeffler

Loeffler did not respond to multiple messages and emails seeking comment.

Wendy Wilton

• Why did you decide to run for election?

“A few years ago, I attended my first school board meeting to voice my opinion about cuts that were being considered. I realized at that moment how uneducated I was about what was happening in the school district. From that point on, I committed to regularly attending school board meetings and community budget sessions to educate myself regarding the status of the district. Now, I feel confident I can contribute to the Riverview School Board.

“My goals include keeping Riverview an independent and financially viable school district while being fair to the local tax payer, ensuring that every student has opportunities to be successful in academics, trades, arts, extracurriculars and athletics, maintaining safety standards to protect students, faculty and staff as the district continues to negotiate the covid-19 pandemic and embracing an environment of diversity and respect.”

• What do you feel is the biggest issue that needs to be addressed?

“Riverview School District student enrollment has been declining steadily over the years. State and federal funding has been flat. Students have been leaving, choosing charter, parochial or cyber schools. With rising mandated costs, Riverview will be challenged every year to balance the budget.

“Riverview, like all school districts in Pennsylvania, relies heavily on the local tax base for funding. Riverview must be fair to the local taxpayers who carry the financial burden but also appeal to families with school-age children to move into the district. The issues challenging the district are multilayered with no simple answers.”

• What should voters know about you?

“I have lived with my husband in Oakmont for almost 20 years, and I am the mother of two Riverview Jr/Sr High School students. Over the years, I have volunteered in our community and held positions on Tenth Street PTO and Riverside Women’s Association. I have a master’s degree in physical therapy and work as a home care physical therapist, primarily with the geriatric population.

“For the past few years, I have committed to attending school board meetings. I have learned that engaging in conversation, listening to all sides and understanding all available information before forming an opinion is essential to making good, sound decisions.”

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, mdivittorio@triblive.com or via Twitter .





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